Careers in Botany
This is an online version of the brochure "Careers in Botany" distributed by the Botanical Society of America. Real Careers - Great Choices! BSA members talk about their jobs...
Dr. David Spooner
Botany from a student's perspective
What is Botany?
Botany is the scientific study of plants. "Plants," to most people, means a wide range of living organisms from the smallest bacteria to the largest living things - the giant sequoia trees. By this definition plants include: algae, fungi, lichens, mosses, ferns, conifers and flowering plants. Today scientists believe bacteria, algae and fungi are in their own distinct kingdoms, but most general botany courses, and most Botany Departments at colleges and universities, still teach about these groups.
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Why Choose a Career in Botany?
Plants have intrigued people for thousands of years. They provide aesthetic beauty as well as materials for our basic needs. Today our world presents new and complex problems that were never dreamed of a century ago. For instance, increasing human population is linked to environmental problems of gigantic proportion. Coupled to the need for more food is increasingly greater environmental impact.
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Botany and Society
The explosive growth of human population is changing the earth dramatically. Only by understanding how human activities affect our environment can we predict global climatic changes. Scientific studies of these changes and their effect on natural ecosystems and crop production are crucial to the future of our society.
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One of the most exciting fields in botany today is biotechnology. Because of very recent advances in genetics, plant scientists have tools to splice genes from one plant into another. The potential usefulness of this is staggering. For example, several amino acids required in the human diet are not produced very well by plants - It may be possible to make major food crops more nutritious by adding genes to produce these deficient amino acids. More research is required, however, before this type of gene transfer becomes useful and practical.
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Areas of Specialization
Read detailed Areas of Specialization in Botany in Plant Biology Specialties, Applied Plant Sciences, Organismal Specialties and Other Specialities
The major employers of plant biologists are educational institutions, federal and state agencies, and industries. Job opportunities usually depend upon educational training and experience. New positions in botany are expected to increase at an above-average rate through the turn of the century. Growing world population continues to increase the need for better food supplies. Environmental concerns, such as air, water and soil pollution, will create openings for ecologists in government and industry. The search for new drugs and medicines and useful genes for improving crop plants will continue to create a need for botanical explorers.
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Salaries and Availability of Jobs
Today the range of job opportunities and potential earnings for plant biologists is wider than ever before. The American Institute for Biological Science 2003 salary survey “Compensation of Life Scientists in the United States of America”; indicates the 2003 median income (salary plus cash compensation, such as bonus, profit sharing, or both) for people with less than one year of experience was estimated at $33,000 and for those with 30 years or more $108,000. The median for all positions without supervisory responsibilities was $48,000 and for those supervising 10 or more professional and sub professional employees, the median income was $126,500.
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Requirements for a Career in Botany
Four years of college and a Bachelor's degree are the minimum requirements for most careers in botany. With these, positions are available as laboratory technicians or technical assistants in education, industry, government, museums, parks and botanical gardens. As in other fields, a wider range of positions is available with more education and experience. Many positions require a Master's or Doctor's degree. A Ph.D. is required for most teaching and research positions in colleges and universities.
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Some Frequently Asked Questions about a Career in Botany
Will I get a job? How much will I earn? Where can I work? How should I prepare myself? Where should I study?
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To Obtain More Information
Most plant scientists are very willing to talk about their careers. Schedule appointments to visit with several botanists at a nearby college or university. Ask them about the nature of their positions and about the specific interests they have in plant biology. You can also get additional information about botany as a discipline and as a career from the following:
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